Community of Stigma

Imagine you have $68,260 from working for a year. Now, you get an unfortunate email displaying the cost of your child’s college tuition; $45,000.

From the National Association of Scholars

These numbers represent the average American household income, the other is the average cost of a US university for one year — ONLY a $23,260 difference, which is a pretty impossible sum with which to support your family.

Just to clarify, that is the average price of a private University per year for students in 2017. This doesn’t even include food, transportation, textbooks or basic necessities. Clearly, this is not even moderately affordable, leaving 71% of students with debt after their 4 years, averaging $42,000 in total owed to the bank.

Courtesy of

Yet, there is such a stigma around a less costly way of getting an education: community college. Especially in my privileged, private American school, most students would never even consider another route besides a 4-year college. Why is that?  Wanting to find out from some SAS colleagues, I set out to investigate links between economic situation and plans for higher education.

The pool of respondents was presented with five simple, straightforward questions:

  1. Do you plan on going to a private university?
  2. Have you filled out a FAFSA petition (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)?
  3. Do your parents expect you to get some financial aid or take out loans to be able to pay for higher education?
  4. What do you think about community college? Do you recognize any stigma associated with it?
  5. Is tuition a big consideration/factor when thinking about college?

Namrata Ray    

1. Yes. Most of the schools that I’ve applied to are private ones. I applied to one public school, however.

2. No. I have not filled out FAFSA. I might try, but my parents have not discussed the need to do so.

3. No. They will be able to pay for all of my college tuition without aid.

4. I think it’s good because it’s easier to be able to transfer to a good school after a year or two, if you can’t get into a good school now, and also it’s a good way to save money for some people. But I think a lot of people feel that community college is just for people that aren’t the smartest. 

5. Tuition isn’t a big factor for me and my family. I will be able to attend schools without issues or loans.

Flissy Ford

1. I have applied to public and private schools. I am pretty much open to both but my top schools are private. I might be taking a gap year though at this point.

2. I think that my parents might have but i’m not sure. If they did fill it out, I don’t think I got aid but I did get some scholarship opportunities for my grades.

3. My parents don’t expect me to. I won’t need to take out loans or get aid in order to pay.

4. I think that it’s smart idea for a year or two, and it is definitely not weird. However, I do think there is a huge stereotype about community colleges and expectations from our peers and teachers.

5. My parents support wherever I want to go and would be able to pay so tuition isn’t a huge factor.

After I asked a few people, it was reassuring to know that I wasn’t the only one who thought there was a stigma. Most people, however, seemed to be fine with the idea, but just don’t see it as an option because they don’t need too. It makes sense to go to a great private school if you get the right grades, have the right connections, and can actually afford it. Being at a very wealthy school, I feel like a lot of students are in a safe little bubble of privilege, where we often forget the value of a dollar and how much $40,000 really is.

Sam Judy

I contacted an SAS alumni who graduated in 2016 and decided to go to a community college in California. I was really interested in why he took a different path from most SAS kids, and also if he faced any scrutiny from friends, family, or teachers. Sam Judy decided to go to Santa Monica College and hopes to transfer after 2 years.

Sam graduating SAS in 2016

Especially when talking to parents of other high schoolers, mentioning community college was a huge bump in conversations as my school I chose was quite unknown. My family was completely for it (lower cost= less stress) but some of my friends that were more college oriented used words that you’d hear being said to a kid who’d won a participation award.

He says that the main thing that pushed him toward community college was the cost. At SAS, we rarely hear our friends or other classmates talk about financial issues, which made this so refreshing to me. I went into the SAS counseling office after talking to Sam, and the counselors were also very supportive of the idea. To sum up my conversations with them, they generally agreed that community college is a great idea if you don’t have the grades to go into a top university right out of high.

So why does the idea of a community college get such a harsh rep? More importantly, ask yourself if you are saying or doing anything that keeps the stigma alive.  For many, alternatives to a four-year university investment can be a sound decision.  And really…  you do not need to know where every classmate has applied, been accepted, or been denied from.


Author: Natalie Chassagne

Natalie Chassagne is a senior who has spent the majority of her life in SAS, moving here when she was 4 years old. This is her first year being part of The Eye! She mainly enjoys reading angsty teen books, making art in H200, and baking vegan treats. She can be contacted at !

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